Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula have two glittering coastlines with a beach to suit every mood and moment. Whether you're after buzzing beachside bars, secluded coves, safe swimming beaches or a romantic spot for a sunset picnic, our guide to Cape Town’s best beaches will point you in the right direction.
And if you're looking for seaside accommodation, our list of Cape Town's best beach hotels will place you right where you want to be – a few steps from the sand.
1. Clifton Beaches 1-4
It takes about 10 minutes to drive from the city centre to any of Clifton’s four beaches. Coves of soft white sand separated by giant boulders that protect them from summer's 'Southeaster' wind, each beach attracts a slightly different crowd:
- 1st Beach – mostly locals and holiday makers from adjacent luxury apartments
- 2nd Beach – one and all (including a sizable gay contingent)
- 3rd Beach – a trendy young crowd makes this beach the most lively
- 4th Beach – a popular and family-friendly choice
In many ways it is the unofficial playground of the rich and beautiful, but Clifton 4th is a classic Cape Town beach with a great holiday atmosphere. Toned bodies soak up the sunshine, jovial vendors wander back and forth selling cold drinks and ice lollies (ice pops), and yachts bob about on the aquamarine Atlantic Ocean.
On balmy summer evenings, locals love to round off the day with a sunset picnic on a Clifton beach. Head down in the late afternoon and you’ll find a festive atmosphere with blankets spread out on the sand, baskets stuffed with deli-bought goodies and candles ready to burn late into the night. Just be warned: it's illegal to drink alcohol on Cape Town’s beaches (the popular beaches are policed) and you'll have to carry all your stuff down from the car park – and back up again – via a long series of steep stairs, so pack light.
Sunbathing and people-watching.
2. Camps Bay
Just down the road from Clifton you’ll find the gently curving crescent of Camps Bay – the best-known beach on the Cape Town coast. Both locals and visitors flock to this palm-lined strip for people-watching, to play beach bats or volleyball, walk their dogs or catch a tan while gazing up at the dramatic peaks of the Twelve Apostles range, part of Table Mountain.
If the wind picks up, hop onto the Camps Bay strip to one of many trendy restaurants, cafes or fashionable bars where Cape Town’s beautiful people dine on seafood or sip chilled local wine. On peak summer days these restaurants spill out onto the pavements, creating a wonderfully laid-back Mediterranean ambience.
TIP: During Cape Town’s peak summer season (December and January), Camps Bay’s main beach can get a little busy – head in the direction of Clifton for just under a kilometre to discover the more secluded and locally loved Glen Beach.
Family fun, sunbathing, beach volleyball and sunset cocktails – it's an easy transition from the broad beach to the buzzing cafes on the Camps Bay strip.
About 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Cape Town on the way to Hout Bay and the scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive, Llandudno may be a bit off the beaten track, but this spectacular beach is certainly a favourite among locals. A narrow road winds its way down through an exclusive hillside neighbourhood to a soft sandy cove where you’ll find children building sandcastles; groups of friends playing beach bats and frisbee; surfers carving patterns on the waves; and waggy-tailed dogs bounding about.
As with all the beaches along the Atlantic coastline the sea is so refreshing it can make your skin tingle. However, it’s also a great spot to watch the sunset, so take snacks (there are no shops) and a beach umbrella and look forward to serious sunbathing followed by a romantic beach picnic.
Beach picnics, surfing, body boarding – Llandudno is a local favourite!
4. Boulders Beach
For a Cape Town beach with a unique twist, head to Boulders Beach. This soft-sand beach and slightly warmer sea (it’s on the False Bay coastline) are home to a large colony of endangered African penguins. These endearing birds have become minor celebrities and visitors flock to watch them strut their stuff between the hulking granite boulders – a highly entertaining sight to see.
Boulders Beach lies about 40km (25mi) south of Cape Town, just beyond the naval base in picturesque Simon’s Town, which makes it a great stop on the way to or from Cape Point Nature Reserve.
Penguin watching, family fun and safe swimming.
Muizenberg is probably Cape Town’s ultimate family-friendly beach with its warmer water, Blue Flag status, and quaint and colourful Victorian bathing boxes. This beautiful stretch of coastline is popular with families, dog walkers and surfers.
If you want to get some surfing lessons while on vacation in Cape Town, then this is the place. There are various companies operating from Muizenberg beach that offer surf lessons as well as surfboard and wetsuit rentals.
Swimming, long walks, surfing and surf lessons.
This stretch of coastline is situated about 20km (12mi) outside the city centre and consist of a few different beaches – the most popular being the long Dolphin Beach strip, Small Bay and Big Bay.
Big Bay is one of the world’s best kitesurfing destinations and hosts an international competition every year. Hence, it’s a great place to enjoy wind-related water sports as well as surfing. Small Bay offers a quieter atmosphere which is better suited for families and sunbathers.
TIP: If you want to take the quintessential, postcard-perfect photograph of Table Mountain, then head to Blouberg.
Windsurfing, kitesurfing, and stunning views of Table Mountain and Robben Island.